Taxonomy term

benchmarks

Benchmarks: December 16, 1811-February 7, 1812: The New Madrid earthquakes strike the Heartland

This winter marks the bicentennial of a series of powerful intraplate earthquakes that occurred in the central United States over a two-month period beginning on Dec. 16, 1811. Named for New Madrid, one of the settlements on the Mississippi River, these tremors were among the largest historic earthquakes to occur east of the Rocky Mountains.

16 Dec 2011

Benchmarks: October 1904: Mineralogy solves a murder

In a bean field outside the city of Freiburg im Breisgau on the western edge of Germany’s Black Forest, Eva Disch lay dead, strangled. Her blue and red silk scarf may have kept the chill off her neck earlier on that October day in 1904, but now it was wound too tightly, a tourniquet around her neck. The only clue to the death of the local seamstress was a dirty handkerchief discarded near her body. With little evidence to go on, investigators turned to Georg Popp.
 
03 Oct 2011

Benchmarks: September 30, 1861: Archaeopteryx is discovered and described

What's commonly thought of as the first bird, Archaeopteryx was first described 150 years ago this month.

02 Sep 2011

Benchmarks: August 1576: False gold found in Meta Incognita

Three small boats set sail westward from London on June 7, 1576. Their goal: Find a northwest passage across the Arctic to Cathay, or China. A former pirate, Martin Frobisher, captained the 34 men. By July 11 they had reached Greenland. A storm overtook them, sinking one boat and forcing another to return home.
 
08 Aug 2011

Benchmarks: July 9, 1958: Megatsunami drowns Lituya Bay, Alaska

The recent disaster in Japan demonstrates the incredible destructive power of a megatsunami in a heavily populated area. But a record-breaking tsunami of a different sort occurred in 1958, in a remote part of Alaska known as Lituya Bay — and was witnessed by only six people, two of whom died. The giant tsunami and the unusual geometry of the bay combined to produce the largest wave run-up ever recorded — deluging the steep forested hills along the edges of the bay to a height of 524 meters. The wave was a powerful reminder of the forces nature can unleash.
 
04 Jul 2011

Benchmarks: June 22, 1969: The Cuyahoga burns

It was a relatively small fire. In terms of damage and duration, the city of Cleveland had seen far worse in the 173 years since its founding. In fact, the blaze on June 22, 1969, only warranted a mere 181 words in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But it was not an ordinary fire: It was the Cuyahoga River that burned. And the event started a movement that revolutionized the United States’ commitment to environmental protection.
 
03 Jun 2011

Benchmarks: May 31, 1889: Johnstown flood kills thousands

“It seemed to me as if all the destructive elements of the Creator had been turned loose at once in that awful current of water.” That’s how Col. Elias Unger, president of the corporation that maintained a dam and resort property called the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, described the water unleashed on the afternoon of May 31, 1889, when a dam at the club broke 23 kilometers above Johnstown, Pa. A little more than an hour later, a wall of water reached the town. In all, more than 2,200 people died in what is known as the Johnstown Flood.

02 May 2011

Benchmarks: April 9, 1895: James Edward Keeler confirms Saturn's rings not solid

On April 9 and 10, 1895, astronomer James Edward Keeler snapped the most important photographs of his life. With a 13-inch (33-centimeter) refracting telescope, Keeler captured proof that Saturn’s rings were not solid disks, but instead a collection of particles revolving around the planet. The discovery put to rest a question that astronomers had been pondering for more than two centuries.
 
01 Apr 2011

Keeler's legacy

James Edward Keeler led a brief life, but his legacy lives on. Scientists have named several natural phenomena after him.
 
01 Apr 2011

Saturn's rings: The remains of an icy moon

James Edward Keeler’s work didn’t end all speculation about Saturn’s rings. For example, scientists still don’t know when they formed, but researchers are getting closer to understanding how they came to be.
 
01 Apr 2011

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